Growing our Generation: Is your operation profitable?

Josh Henderson is the editor of the Jan. 16, 2017 Growing our Generation enewsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.

My name is Josh Henderson, and I am a first generation farmer on my farm in Muskingum and Coshocton Counties. My fiancee, Amber, and I have a commercial cow calf operation where we raise crossbred calves to be finished out at a feedlot. We have a intensive grazing program on our farm where we precondition then back ground our calves for 100 days after weaning, then market to a feedlot.

Amber is currently in school pursuing a business degree. We will be married in July 2017 in Jamaica. We are both excited for her passion in marketing and our farm, hoping it will allow us to expand our operation and possibly finish our own cattle to market directly.

During the day I have a full-time career at Farm Credit Mid-America. As a financial officer, I cover Muskingum, Coshocton, Guernsey, Noble and Belmont counties. I partner with farmers to help them obtain financing for their farming operations whether that is an operating loan, term loan for livestock or equipment, or a real estate loan to purchase their first or next farm. I really enjoy my job as it allows me to work and visit many different operations along with being able to bring ideas that I see back to my own operation.

Is your operation profitable?

Agriculture is a tough business. It takes a lot of capital and resources to make it year to year. You have to really love it to get such little return on your assets and investments. As a first generation farmer and a lender, I understand this very well. Everybody says it is impossible to start farming on your own. Well it’s not impossible! However, it is tough and a long process, so patience is a virtue.

As I have met with farmers over the last two years I have seen income and financial positions change dramatically in farming operations of both grain or livestock. Some things that I have noticed among the successful operations and the not so successful operations all start with earnings and their relationship to living expenses and debt levels. If the earnings are there then everything else will come together. Since commodities are down and not looking to move up any time soon, it is time to do accurate and thorough enterprise budgets for every commodity on your operation. Finding those break-evens and best and worst case scenarios is important for the future of your operation. As a lender, if a customer can provide those prior to a loan request it can make a difference in a loan decision.

Once you’ve figured out which enterprises are profitable at these low prices, it may be time to quit the unprofitable and possibly sell those nonessential assets to pay down debt or increase your working capital position. This will ultimately help secure the future of your operation. However, always consult with your lender prior to any big changes. Remember cash is king but earnings is the kingdom!

Get involved
Prior to the cows and Farm Credit Mid-America, I worked for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation as an organization director in central Ohio. This experience showed me the real value that Farm Bureau has to any one who is involved in agriculture, which means anyone who eats. Even though I had another opportunity which led to me leaving Farm Bureau, I knew that the values Farm Bureau has aligned very closely to my own. That is why I knew I would stay involved.

I have served on the county board for two terms as a board member, been delegate at the state annual meeting, and membership coordinator for the last two years. On a statewide basis, I had the opportunity to be a graduate of AgriPOWER Institute. That was one of my greatest opportunities which allowed myself to grow personally and professionally.

There are so many opportunities to get more involved like attending a Young Ag Professionals conference, participating in AgriPOWER, or helping out at the county fair, to name a few. As more people get removed from the farm, telling our story is becoming more difficult. Farm Bureau is an excellent vehicle to help us do that. We all need to do our part and to help our industry so that it’s there for our kids and they can grow up with the same possibilities we did.

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This e-newsletter is brought to you by Ohio Farm Bureau’s Young Ag Professionals. Learn more about Farm Bureau membership, including a discounted category for those 18-24 years old.

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